DIRTY MIND (1980)
Dirty mind was a game changer. It’s the first time you felt Prince was taking a risk with his music career and it was a total change of direction that would permanently redefine his career as music genius and sexual pervert. Some things were the same, Prince playing all the instruments in the album, same (similar group members and musicians), and the falsetto was as high as ever. But this was different, Dirty Mind is a more raw, post punk guitar throbbing and more honest than his previous outings. It was also more a guitar album with anthems such as “When you were mine” (would not be out of place in a Springsteen catalog of songs) but there were still catchy dance funk tunes (Head, Uptown) to keep old fans happy. When he does talk about sex, he does so in such an insidious way that it makes the listener uncomfortable (note the song about incest called “Sister”) and when the album closes with “Party Up”, you think your getting a party tune, but your getting a thinly disguised and very angry political message. This album is perhaps TOO honest and it is probably Prince making what he may have though at the time would be his last. The previous records For You and Prince sold well but were not huge successes, and in those days artists were handed 3 album deals and Dirty Mind was the last of that three album set. In one way it backfired because Dirty Mind wasn’t a huge hit, and there were no discernable hits on the record – but ask Prince fans and they know how important this album was. In one respect it made Prince into the artist he is today by introducing that sexual persona to the world, but in another the album would win critical acclaim simply because it is so consistent, honest and has brilliant and very listenable pop songs.
The album starts with the title track, “Dirty Mind” the pulsating (and slightly out of sync) synth/organ and bass pushing the song along. This is a mid tempo song that really sets the scene for the rest of the adventure. The lyrics are plain as day and it’s honesty appeals – “I really get a dirty mind whenever your around”, nothing else needs to be said. Ok, maybe. There is something insidious about this, but really this song is similar to the opener in the Prince album where Prince wants to do something, but you are thinking that its just him talking to himself. “I want to be your lover” would tell us what he wants, but perhaps by the time we reach Dirty Mind he is fed up “I really want to lay you down in my daddy’s car”. Just in case we didn’t get the message… “I want to do it all night” the second song, he tells us something he wants to do. This song is faster and more synth/organ based than the opener, but perhaps a little more fun. The song hops along quickly with Prince really showcasing his outstanding keyboard skills is a real delight – almost a perfect pop song. It kind of feels like your in a smoky bar when you listen to “Do it all night”, and when it ends it segues perfectly onto “Gotta Broken Heart again” which you could say is the only real ballad on the album. It’s a short throw away song which is probably only meant to break the album up and it does this perfectly because you spend two minutes listening to it waiting for the album’s opus “When you were mine”. To me, this is the best song that Prince has made up to this point. The song which was remade by Cyndi Lauper for the second time (after the genius “I feel for you” in “Prince”) is where Prince showcases his amazing song-writing variety. This is an almost like a folk song which is about as catchy as you can get – also it’s not very rude for Dirty Mind (well not unless you listen carefully) – put it this way you could play it to your mum. The opening synth line is mesmerizingly catchy and the 80’s drums and guitar riffs are brilliant and suit the era.
Next up is “Uptown” – this is one of the stand out songs on the album, although it’s very catchy it’s also quite meaningful and describe’s the environment Prince grew up in (which still sounds pretty cool – “our clothes our hair we didn’t care”). The vocal is also louder and more aggressive than before and really demonstrates a growing musical confidence. “Uptown” is also an attempt at a disco sound, but he doesn’t quite pull it off which was a good thing anyway as it makes the song unique and not part of any existing genre. The song also has that raw dark “feel” to it which is really a theme of “Dirty Mind” throughout.
The next song “Head” is even more interesting, it’s a raw funky song about… well you guessed it. Head…. with morals of course. This is Prince here. Prince’s fantasy dirty little mind goes into overdrive as he imagines a woman about to get married and he getting it on, but of course that would be WRONG, so she decides to just give him head. The song is a gem and never grows old. It’s about as funky and dirty as you can get but its also a lot of fun. You just don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny or if he is really that deluded – the line is blurred and you just have to enjoy the ride. There are similar songs to come (for example “Lady Cab Driver”) that take this theme to the next level, but a funkier song you will never hear again.
The fantasy continues “Sister”. This is probably the dirtiest and strangest song he ever made (and he made a few), about.. incest. Probably a song subject matter that no one had ever approached or tried to approach before him. This was (and still is) a real taboo subject and Prince sings with anger and passion throughout, but it’s really a strange song that sits a little uncomfortably. This is why this album is such genius, it makes you think and feel at all sorts of levels.
The final song is mid-tempo funk song “Party Up”, which sounds kind of innocuous compared to the other songs preceding it, but it ends up with an angry athemic song about revolution. It’s almost as if he is getting us ready for the future – The Revolution.
LISTEN TO HEAD!